New Delhi | Delhi cabinet minister Atishi on Saturday wrote to Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar asking how the official accused of raping and impregnating a minor was allowed to work in the WCD department despite previous sexual harassment complaints against him.
She sought a detailed report on the issue, including the timeline of receipt of complaints of harassment by the officer along with details of the person who handled them, by 5 pm on August 28.
Premoday Khakha -- a deputy director in the city government's Women and Child Development (WCD) department -- allegedly raped the girl several times between November 2020 and January 2021, according to the Delhi Police. His wife Semma Rani allegedly gave the girl medicine to terminate her pregnancy.
Shortly before he and his wife were arrested in the case on Monday, Khakha was suspended from his post following a direction from Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
In her letter to the chief secretary, Atishi, who holds the charge of the Delhi WCD department, asked if there was an enquiry into the complaints against the accused and who was the senior-most officer aware of this.
"Was any disciplinary action taken based on these complaints?" she added in the letter.
"Several media reports have brought out that the officer of the WCD Department, who has been arrested for the alleged repeated rape of a minor, had previous complaints against him regarding sexual harassment of women. This is an extremely serious issue. Not taking action in time, encourages wrongdoers," the letter by the minister read. "How can senior officers turn a blind eye to such complaints? What makes this incident especially alarming is that the officer in question was working in the Women and Child Department. How could someone accused of sexual harassment of women be allowed to work in a department responsible for the protection and welfare of women and children?" she asked.
Underlining that a system that does not take complaints of sexual harassment seriously becomes a party to the crimes against women, Atishi said that perpetrators begin to feel that there are no repercussions to their behaviour and become emboldened.
"It puts the women and girls around them at a higher risk. If complaints of sexual harassment against this particular official were in the knowledge of senior officers in the Government of NCT of Delhi, then it raises very serious questions as to how complaints are handled, inquiries done and disciplinary action taken," her letter said.
If media reports about the sexual harassment complaints are to be believed, "the level of indifference by the government machinery in handling such serious complaints and meting [out] disciplinary action is truly shocking", she noted.
"It makes me worried about how many more such incidents might exist without coming to light. Without prompt and strict action being taken on these issues, the perpetrators of crimes against women find encouragement," the minister added.
On Thursday, Delhi Commission for Women Chief Swati Maliwal had written to the chief secretary recommending that the accused "needs to be terminated with immediate effect". She had also highlighted that there have been previous complaints of sexual harassment against the official.
"The commission has been informed that four complaints regarding sexual harassment at workplace were lodged against the accused person earlier. It is learnt that three complaints were submitted by three separate women while the fourth complaint was anonymous. All three complainants approached the High Court of Delhi," Maliwal noted in the letter.